Sophomore attacker Christian Mule runs with the ball. Lehigh men's lacrosse suffered a 12-5 loss to Rutgers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Charlottesville, Virginia.(Katie McNulty/B&W Staff)

Lehigh men’s lacrosse falls to Rutgers in first-round NCAA Tournament game

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Lehigh men’s lacrosse came up short against Rutgers, falling 12-5 in its NCAA Tournament first-round game in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“It’s disappointing to come out with a loss today, but I thought our guys really battled hard,” said head coach Kevin Cassese. “ We were trying to slow it down a bit today. They’re so good at getting up out of transition. I thought we did a good job. We gave ourselves a fighting chance.”

This was only the Mountain Hawks’ second loss of the season after losing to Villanova 18-6 in the last regular-season game.

The Scarlet Knights defense held Lehigh to just five goals, which was the lowest amount of goals they’ve scored all season.

Rutgers goalie Colin Kirst, a transfer from Lehigh, had a big day against his former team. Colin is the brother of Lehigh’s junior attacker, Cole Kirst. Colin also shares the field with Connor Kirst, who is a star midfielder for the Scarlet Knights. Colin had 17 saves, alongside former teammate James Spence, who also had 17 saves today.

“At the end of the day, I thought their defense was outstanding,” Cassese said. “ I thought Colin played really good in the goal.”

The Mountain Hawks were without their leading scorer, Tommy Schelling, who has 24 goals and 24 assists on the season. Schelling suffered a shoulder injury in last week’s game against Colgate.

“To be missing our top player was tough,” Cassese said.” We found out on Thursday that he wasn’t going to be able to go, so for us, we felt like we had some good depth on offense, but he’s a special player, and he’s definitely featured on our offense, so we felt like we needed everybody else to do a little bit more.”

Lehigh’s first and only lead came just 59 seconds into action when Kevin Gersbeck assisted Justin Tiernan to give Lehigh a 1-0 lead. The Scarlet Knights responded with their own goal less than two minutes later.

The Scarlet Knights picked up their first lead of the game with 5:34 left to play in the first quarter. Freshman attacker Scott Cole tied things up at two with 1:50 remaining, but Rutgers was a force to be reckoned with the rest of the game.

Rutgers outscored Lehigh 10-3 in the final three quarters to capture their first NCAA Tournament win since 1990.

While junior faceoff specialist Mike Sisselberger went 15 of-19 from the stripe today, Lehigh’s offense struggled to convert their possessions into points. Sisselberger eclipsed himself as one of the best faceoff specialists in the NCAA. He won 79.5 percent of his faceoffs, which is a new NCAA record.

This was Lehigh’s first time playing in the NCAA Tournament since 2013. They will finish their season 10-2.

“I’m just really proud of our guys,” Cassese said. “I thought they did a great job all year. Obviously, we were playing the opponents on our schedule, but we were also playing COVID all year, and I thought our guys did a really great job of handling all that. They sacrificed a lot.”

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